Good Day BIO: Fighting climate change and superbugs

September 20, 2021
Starting the new week—and the UN General Assembly—with a focus on two of our world’s most pressing issues: climate change and antimicrobial resistance. Luckily, biotechnology offers solutions for both, if we get policy right. (700 words, 3 minutes, 30 seconds)
BIO

Starting the new week—and the UN General Assembly—with a focus on two of our world’s most pressing issues: climate change and antimicrobial resistance. Luckily, biotechnology offers solutions for both, if we get policy right. (700 words, 3 minutes, 30 seconds)

 

Biotechnology can fight climate change—but trade negotiators need to act

 
 

That’s BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath’s message in an op-ed published in Newsweek ahead of a week of consequential climate and food resiliency discussions.

World leaders are gathering in New York this week for the UN General Assembly, where discussions will focus on climate and specifically the resiliency of our food systems

“Advances in biotechnology, especially within the agricultural sector, can help us overcome the immense, interconnected challenges of climate change and global hunger,” wrote BIO’s Dr. Michelle in Newsweek. “Emerging biotechnology, such as gene-editing, can safely and effectively change our planet's future for the better.”

Read: Why gene editing should be on the menu 

“But merely having invented the technology is not enough,” she continues. “We also need to make sure the products of groundbreaking biotech are accessible around the world.” 

“At the moment, they're not—in large part, due to trade barriers imposed not by adversaries, but by some of our closest trading partners”Mexico, which is “blocking the regulatory approval and imports of biotech crops,” she explains.

Read: Unpacking Mexico’s economic and environmental paradox 

The bottom line: “America's trade officials need to hold their Mexican counterparts to account—and specifically, persuade our southern neighbor to resume the approval process for agricultural biotechnology and roll back its directive to bar biotech corn,” she concludes. “Failure would squander one of our best chances for a healthier, more sustainable tomorrow.” 

Read the whole thing. 

Read more about biotech solutions for climate.

 

More Agriculture and Environment News: 

Science: SARS-like viruses may jump from animals to people hundreds of thousands of times a year
“In a preprint published yesterday researchers estimate that an average of 400,000 people are likely infected with SARS-related coronaviruses every year, in spillovers that never grow into detectable outbreaks.”

 
 
 
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What should we do about superbugs?

 
 

As if climate change wasn’t enough for us to deal with, we have another “ticking time bomb” in health care: antibiotic-resistant superbugs, BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath wrties in a joint op-ed with Dr. Andrew Tomaras, Chief Scientific Officer at Forge Therapeutics, in The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Deadly bacteria and fungi are evolving to resist all current antimicrobials,” they write. “If that happens, everything from chemotherapy to routine surgeries will become extraordinarily risky, since patients’ weakened immune systems won’t be able to fight off these dangerous infections, and existing medicines will be of little use.” 

“The United Nations estimates that without new antibiotics, by 2050, superbugs could kill 10 million people a year,” they continue. 

But there’s a problem: “Because of the high research and development costs and low probability of earning a financial return on antibiotics, many large pharmaceutical companies have pivoted away from antibiotics development. Since the 1980s, the number of major drug companies developing new antibiotics has fallen from 18 to three.” 

“Fortunately, many small biotechs are still on the case,” they continue. “But the economics have not proven to be much better for smaller firms.” 

Two proposed bipartisan bills could help:

  1. The PASTEUR Act, “which would create a subscription program that gives government insurers unlimited access to new antibiotics in exchange for recurring fees.” (It’s included in Cures 2.0.)
  2. The DISARM Act, “which would adequately reimburse hospitals that responsibly prescribe novel antibiotics, thereby incentivizing firms to create them.”

Watch and Share: Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) explains why we need to incentivize antibiotic R&D

Sepsis is the #1 cause of death in U.S. hospitals—and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) makes it harder to treat. September is Sepsis Awareness Month, to raise awareness of sepsis risk factors and symptoms as well as funds for research—learn more.

 

More Health Care News: 

CNBC: FDA panel recommends Pfizer’s COVID booster doses for people 65 and older
“The panel voted 16-2 against distributing the vaccines to Americans 16 and older, before unanimously embracing an alternate plan to give boosters to older Americans and those at a high risk of suffering from severe illness if they get the virus.”

 
 
 
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Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor.jpg
 
 

Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor is the first Hispanic physician to travel to space. She spent six months in 2018 aboard the International Space Station (ISS), studying cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Back on Earth, she has been treating COVID-19 patients in Louisiana.

Meet more Hispanic and Latinx scientists and innovators you should know.

 
 
 
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President Biden’s Monday: Heading to New York today for a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the start of the UN General Assembly—CNN has more on what to watch this week

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: This week, we’re watching to see if the House Budget Committee moves on the reconciliation bill—stay tuned.

 
 
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